Pedelare! Pedelare!

 Posted by at 9:41 pm  Catastrophe Games, Hitting the Potholes, ON the STREET  Comments Off
Nov 062013
Kiosk 12

MelesmelesSenori Tasso - Mr Badger is scorching the west country on his bicycle. Beware, Beware – Pedelare! Pedalare!

The peleton strings out behind him, those fine young men and women athletes, the pride of our youth and members of those famous racing teams in their matching lycra grinding up the gears to reach the of the moors and then sprinting downhill. The hunt is on and it is flat out all the way, never touching the brakes. But none can keep up with his furious pace. Old Melesmeles is one in a million, we say. Nobody betters him. Nobody can, and nobody ever will. Those few of us who stand our ground in the presence of that growl, those bared teeth, spumy chops and red eyes…

… like the gashed and gored heros of the ancient boar hunt of Pelion, pump out our life blood, and, descending to the shades, become invisible men and women. Lost.

O Melemeles! O Stavros (as we also playfully call him: like the grizzled and revered village elder of a mythical Aegean island, when he is not racing he is as gentle and friendly as a much loved pussy cat!) – the old and ageless wild beast.

And so there is much blood, Remembrance Sunday, red poppies, the state of emergency, and all the rest – ‘But what is the path that takes us from the Augustinian conception that good is everything and evil is only the lack of goodness, to an opposite view, such as that as Schopenhauer, that good is the absence of evil?

‘Between Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, on the one hand, and Schopenhauer on the other, is the philosophy of the “thinking self”, which introduces into the modern world view an “acontextual”, solitary, self-sufficient being who is capable of acquiring knowledge of the world “outside himself” with his own forces alone. I am referring once again to Descartes, to Leibniz’s “monads without doors or windows”, and to Kant, for whom the subject of knowledge can never penetrate the “thing in itself”.

‘The identification of evil with life and the idea of “abstinent” goodness are based on the individualistic conception of man, on the same homo clausus (it), on the same “self in a shell” on which freedom is based as independence from relationships… as I have sought to demonstrate… (she continues)’. Storia Permette, Storia Proibito, Valeria Ugazio, (tr 2013): Between Good and Evil, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (Ch 4)- P. 178.

And then there is the barking of the dogs! Yes, the real fun begins when we hit the suburbs of atomised and sickening life in which the only story is “Whenever things get better, they get worse” … a story, as your reporter, Mr Fox, can confirm from his customary horizontal position, beneath, beyond and between (meaning that for the last few days I’ve been swinging my hammock among ‘Men in Sheds’, first the monastic community at Hartridge where the monks of the Buddhist Forest Sangha Tradition live in ‘kutis’ (=sheds), and today on the oriental express and London bound to attend the launch of the Mens Shed Association no less – or “Shedders” as they are perhaps unfortunately known).

The suburbs call Melesmeles and his peleton hunt by several different names – “The Grey Wolves”, “The Wild Bunch”, “The Evil One”, or even “Shiva and his Gang” (How wrong they are!), but usually it is simply “Terrorists”. Sensing their approach the domesticated pups raise the alarm, first an occasional bark, then all joining together in unison and general howling. The streets get cleared, and as the dark mass approaches woe betide any isolated car driver on his way to the betting shop, or housewife on her way to the supermarket. It is all about fear, fear among them permitting.

Mr Fox has seen it all for himself and will be telling all, or as much he is also permitted to, to the association of “Shedders” later today. Some may elect to join our pack, and become ‘our’ citizens, and or at least that is the absurd hope he also shares with Melesmeles.

Jul 192012

As a committee member I had been invited to a specially conformed conference to discuss matters of the utmost international importance. Held as it was within the solid imperial splendour of Victorian limestone, the entrances watched over by uniformed staff, ex-military, ex-police or even ex-G4S, my expectations rose to dizzying heights as to not only the outcome of the conference but my own status which I had always thought to be of a rather doubtful nature, skirting as it did both  the gutter and the lower ranks of the aristocracy. Now this, I thought optimistically, now this is where I belong, and squared my shoulders as the commissionaire held out his hand so that he might examine any documentation I might have. My first attempt was a failure because he merely shook his head and moved as though he intended to send me marching back out the door that I had so recently entered through. From my voluminous pockets I was able to produce some other papers. I could see he was sorry that he didn’t have any latex gloves to handle such a doubtful offering but he was willing to take a chance and drew them towards his highly trained nostrils. After many dramatic contortions involving all his extensive facial musculature he cleared his throat. I had assumed he would then return my papers but his hands were now empty and he withdrew into an official indifference as to my existence and if I did indeed exist what actions I might take.

    There was no reception desk and no receptionist but fortunately I had been informed my text message that the conference would be held on the ninth floor so I cast about for the lifts. As you well know the public transport systems in that distant city do not include much in the way conveniences so it was imperative that I discover the whereabouts of the gentleman’s conveniences fairly hastily. But I now seemed to be alone so seeing some stairs descending off in the shadows to my left I decided on that course of action. Two flights down I had the notion that a Virgil was needed to guide my steps. Did I have to go down in order to eventually end up on the ninth floor? Had I once again made the wrong decision? But, no, there is a door, heavy dark wood, perhaps mahogany, and though there was no sign on the door my spirits were lifted at the prospect of relief of urinary pressure. And what a delight it was to see a long row of gleaming urinals arrayed along the length of one wall, with gleaming copper pipework and glass splash guards to protect my admittedly unpolished shoes. Unzipping, as one must, in such circumstances, I was surprised by a low cough behind me. And then a woman’s voice:


    ‘Are you Pring, the poet?’ Almost a purr, even a hint of growl.


    ‘N-n-no,’ I stammered.


    ‘Are you Peliot the poet?’


    ‘No,’ no longer a stammer, but in fact a hint of anger that I was being delayed in self-producing the wished for relief.


    ‘Are you a poet at all?’


    ‘No, no, no I’m not a poet but I have to get to the ninth floor.’


    That might just have been the wrong thing to say.


                    (To be continued)


Jun 232012

It’s hard to dance when there is a bad smell. Edward Thomas writes (in the couple of stanzas you quote): ‘That I may lose my way/And myself.’ I have long been puzzled by the phrase ‘lose myself’; it makes me become very literal minded: oh dear, when did you last see it? Losing my way is much easier to get to grips with; it happens a thousand times a day and might well happen during the writing of this short piece of prose but on the other hand as I have little idea of where I am going with it how would I recognise the losing of the way. If I set off for Paris and find myself in Florence then clearly something has gone wrong. Though in this case does the smell alert me: this doesn’t smell like Paris. There is always that handy medicinal standby, alcohol; a couple of drinks and I no longer care where I am. Florence will do very nicely, thank you. And, returning to the question of smell, with a couple of drinks inside me I can ignore the bad smell and get on with enjoying the dance; even losing myself in the wild gyrations.


    I suppose what it might mean is losing some sort of burden; self as burden. What I might be able to do, Pamuk suggests, is to store bits of burden in a museum. Let’s call it the Museum of Innocence. Or why not call it the Museum of Guilt. Little bits of guilt displayed safely inside suitably strengthened glass cases. We don’t want that guilt getting out and interfering with the free flow of glorious dancing life, a life that is free of bad smells. Though the dilemma is that unless I manage to forget your introduction of this bad smell, with or without the help of alcohol, I have to come back to it. And it’s not helped by the fact that you don’t give any clues as to what the bad smell is actually like. Surely there cannot be only one bad smell in the world. Not forgetting that a bad smell for you might be heaven on earth for somebody else. Cannot you, like some refined sommelier (could your butler help you with this? I’m not sure whether you have an actual sommelier on your staff, but your butler, he might be from the nether regions of Glasgow, but I always thought he was an unusually helpful fellow) DESCRIBE the bad smell. Give me some clues as to the subtle notes that reach your nostrils.


    Innocence surely does not smell at all or if it does it must be sweet; that’s what we say isn’t it: sweet innocence. Honey and meadow flowers; not the stuff that grows in the ditch you dug last year which is, by all accounts, already rather rank. Honeysuckle comes to mind; that perfume that pervades the evening air. But what about roses? Now it seems to me that roses can have a more dangerous range of smells. Smells that could lead one into dangerous situations: those assignations in a dark alleys; situations from which there is no escape.


    Let’s be clear and remember that we have an investigation on our hands. The question is: what was that bad smell? Have courage even if it leads you to places you would rather not go.


May 092012

A cast iron handle to a trap door, then down some steep slippery steps. Are you counting? And then a passageway. At the end of which a glimmer of light. A group of men. Laughter. A nightclub, and a red light inside.

Then down some slippery steps. Are you counting? Have you reached thirty nine? And what makes you think that your story last week “must be a dream”?

And, another thing, don’t apologise (it is editorial policy here not to). Don’t apologise about “James”: James Hunt (sic: meaning ‘as it is’). World Racing Champion. 1976. Hot year. Driving for McClaren and smoking forty a day. On the edge of the racing line and going flat out on the Nurburgring circuit heading for that corner where your friend’s car is already on fire.

I am counting. Because at a precise moment, the story goes that it is at the number thirty nine or in the next few seconds, I am meant to do something. Maybe it is to change gear. Maybe it is to hit the brakes. Maybe it is to start running. Or to stop. At this split-second moment I can’t remember which. How much adrenalin is pumping? Or is it the fear? Fear driving the fear.

The next six seconds, thirty nine steps, or 127 Hours. I hadn’t thought about that film much until about a month ago (based on the true story of professional mountaineer Aron Ralston). I was looking for books to recommend for a ‘Navigating Serious Illness’ section of a health chapter I was writing for a book for maturing men, and came across The Power of Two: Surviving Serious Illness with an Attitude and an Advocate by Brian and Geri Monaghan (Workman Publishing, New York. 2009). Brian and Geri keeping going; he was seriously ill, she became his health advocate, and it was Brian who told me how much he had got from the film 127 Hours. Theirs is one of the best books of "experience and common sense" I know on the subject of serious illness.

The path of Conscious Ageing? An Elders Rite of Passage? Post-traumatic growth? “James”: this time another James. James Hawkins writes across the boundaries in his latest two posts in his Good Medicine blog about the “most intense, prolonged, potentially catastrophic experience of my life”, and about the “lessons, self-compassion and post-traumatic growth”.

About his 3 Hours: three hours down a snow shute above a cliff in the mountains of Skye. I dwell on every word and rejoice in his rescue! James says he writes, “both personally and as a therapist”, and, I would add, writing across the boundaries of humanity about:
wayfaring / the primacy of movement / the nature and constitution of the ground / divergent perspectives of earth as ground of habitation and scientific object / the intercourse of earth and sky, wind and weather / the fluidity and friction of materials / the experience of light, sound and feeling / what it means to make things / drawing and writing/ storytelling (this list as it happens is borrowed from Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description, by Tim Ingold (2012)).

I am not there yet, but I am still counting.

Apr 262012

Sometimes, in conversations, in responding to what others are saying, we (I) say what we want to be, or that we believe should be, true rather than what is true. As usual watching our politicians is enormously instructive in this regard. It is not possible to say nothing because, well, they are supposed to be pretending to be in charge, to be responding positively to whatever crisis has arisen. But on the other hand they often have nothing intelligent to say, they are in fact overwhelmed, but obviously can’t admit it, so then they are dependent on slippery advisers to dream up some form of words that they hope will hide their nakedness. Time has become so condensed and is in such short supply that effectively there is no time. All those who cannot pretend to keep up fall by the wayside. In fact, it seems that we need new migrants coming in with each tide who are desperate enough to work flat out for any number of hours for a pittance before they are reduced, burnt out and the next wave are ready to take their places.

    At least they don’t lie about ‘trickle down’ these days. The gloves are off: this is how it is; you better get used to it. How long will it be before the financial elite and their propagandists persuade us that democracy is actually not working and it should be jettisoned in favour of . . . what? An unelected national unity government?

    Hello, this cosy little foxhole on Dartmoor is getting rather crowded – surely we can’t all fit in. Alright, alright, I’m moving up, don’t shout.

    Don’t get in a panic, our current form of democracy was always a bit of sham, a bit of a first attempt; after all those two arrogant posh boys – Giddy Osborne and Pinky Cameron – have been educated at the country’s finest establishments, so they must know what is best for us.

    You are right, of course, we are endlessly corruptible. Perhaps the only person existing on this planet who isn’t must be Aung San Suu Kyi. The rest of us are constantly caught with our trousers down in the midst of overwhelming confusions of desire. I want to fit in but I don’t agree with you. I wish I could be you but I can’t, I’m not; there are these different thoughts in my mind but on the other hand it’s a bit too scary to be separate for more than a few moments so I’ll shut up and agree with you even if I don’t agree with you. It’s simpler this way and maybe I’ll get something out of it. You know what I mean!

    I mean, could you, you know, make it worth my while.

    Anyway, what do I know?

    Did you see that grinning buffoon James Hunt after he was outed by all those emails? And the only way he managed to stutter though his statement in the Commons was to have Cameron’s finger thrust up his fundament. Or two fingers, perhaps. Come along, Jimmy, let’s see if we can talk our way out of this one. At least there was a submissive special adviser ready to fall on his sword to protect the boss who knew nothing about what was going on.

    Oh, what endless fun. A sudden possible insight: has something been done to our politicians, some surgical procedure performed in an exclusive private hospital to change politicians into stand-up comedians. And are the real politicians those who have admitted to being stand-up comedians? Or am I simply a slow learner and politicians have always been stand-up comedians?

    I think you should institute an immediate investigation.

    And I suppose by this time you have already ordered that book, but please don’t talk about being alive to Giddy and Pinky. Nobody has told them. Yet. They will have such a shock.


Apr 202012

Or at least spying out the cracks that allow some sort of resistance. What is the nature of our intentions? Resistance? Yes, that must be high up on the list, but what form might this resistance take?

    Shivering on Dartmoor? Yes, tick that one.

    Advancing, not terribly bravely, into the strange world of life beyond 60? Yes, tick that one.

    What about that hooker, that our old friend booksmith talks about? Does he have s someone in mind? Is Michelle available? Is she cheap? The first and last prostitute I knowingly had anything to do with was one who shouted down to me from her first floor window in Berwick Street. It must have been 1970 or 71 because that was when I was working in Soho. There is no memory of how I responded. And for that matter, I can’t remember what her precise words were. ‘Do you want to come up?’ she might have said. And I might have responded, ‘no thank you, darling.’ Though it was probably without the darling. These days I seem to have started using ‘darling’ or ‘my dear’ to almost anyone I might have met once or twice. Perhaps all vaguely intimate contact is something to be treasured.

    Though working in Soho for what was probably a few months or at most a year must have meant that I encountered (in passing) any number of what have become better known as sex workers. What was my work? Just in case you were wondering. Overseas Telegrams. How quaint! The  technology of teleprinters and sticking strips of paper with their stream of words down on what I assume was an A5 sheet of paper has been completely superseded except for the nostalgia of wedding telegrams.

    Resistance must primarily have as its target the huge industrial force of commodification with its accompanying reduction of human value. I guess what it mostly amounts to is a tiny (but maybe not irrelevant) action of human solidarity. Like walking. Which is where this all started – something very simple: walking. Doing it and naming it. And even in the face of the divine comedy, talking and writing: endeavouring to nail the fragile sheet of paper, with the ink running, obscuring, losing the possibility of anybody actually reading it, in the howling wind and lashing rain of the night. ‘For f—ks sake, everything is fine; keep shopping’ is what they said when I protested.

    Can we put our little shoulders to the wheel of Debord’s détournement. Turning it round. But it’s hard not to feel trapped by the appearance of Beckett’s angel- tramps seemingly stuck in some sort of purgatory, sensing the ticking of the clock, the winding down of one’s life force, and standing back in amazement as the younger generations come forward to take their places in the world, full of creative pizzazz.

    It feels like a narrow passage that I have to force our way through . . . sounds rather like another session of rebirthing doesn’t it. Oh dear, do I have the energy?

    Yes, come on, get on with it. OK OK. What sort of soap opera is this? Is there anybody there?


Mar 282012

Autumn2006pics 033
An 'Evening Entertainment': last week we went to the Picture House together to watch the documentary film called Patience about WG Sebald and based on his The Rings of Saturn , about walking in Suffolk; yes, full of charm and wonder. And it is true that we were a threesome at the film, which is an uneven number for socialising (one thinks of chaperones and such arrangements, not that courting is our bag these days).

It was ‘On a Journey’; I get my copy of Rings of Saturn from off the book shelf and see that it was first published in England 1998, having been translated from the German original published in 1995. The black and white filming mimicked the photographs which are such an integral part of his Technik (in German where it means both the technique itself and the more mysterious knack of knowing how to do it), the impression of smoke and a shaky hand held camera, and a touch of magic.

 However, one wonders if poor dead Max would not have groaned to see the trickery of an image of his face being superimposed on the still photograph of some smoke rising from a roadside firework, which a researcher, ‘devotee’ or ‘fan’ had let off at the cross-roads where he had met his death in 2001. Max was a stickler about his disgust for stylistic “adornment” of any kind, whether photographic magical tricks, or the uncritical critical adulation of the Anglophone (English and American) Sebald Industry. Where for instance, I asked myself, were the Germans?

Ah yes, but perhaps you noticed the music during the film? It was Schubert, one of the tunes from the Wintereise , as I think it trying to remember now. It was possibly the last in that song series, Die Liederman (the hurdy-gurdy man) – Und er last es gehen / Alles, wie es will, / Dreht, und seine Leier / Steht ihm nimmer still – but without the words in the film version, the music was, as it were, unsupported.

And ‘In a Train’; I cannot recall whether in The Rings of Saturn he (the narrator) travelled by train. It is likely. In his Selected Poems (1964-2001), Across the Land and the Water, many of the poems describe journeys made , some explicitly some probably, in trains. Begin with the very first poem in the collection:

How hard it is
to understand the landscape
as you pass in a train
from here to there
and mutely it
watches you vanish.

Max wrote that one as early as 1964, indicating he knew his direction of travel if not the final destination even then as a young man, which was about the time he arrived to live in Manchester. The short two-stressed lines (in German) are typical of a great many of his poems: the clickety-clack rhythm of the carriage wheels on the rails (before the high-speed rail versions replaced them), and again reminiscent of Schubert and his frequent use of two repeating notes.

And his ‘Darker Tones’: “melancholy but without any hint of pathos”, as Alfred Brendal described it on BBC Radio 3 last night. It is Radio 3’s 8-day, all day Schubertiade, and it is in full flow now – The Schubert Industry – don’t miss it! The two repeating notes and darker tones, whatever was the cause (the effects of the Treponema Pallidum and mercury poisoning some say): for two alternating and repeating notes I particularly recommend you try listening to his Andante D929, but Patience – it is 9 mins and 36 secs long.

And do you not think Schubert would also have liked trains, if he had lived long enough to know what they were, and would  have written songs about train travel? Who knows, probably two-stressed rhythmic train songs to add to the near 700 other songs he wrote in his actual life, and perhaps based on poems by Johann Mayrhofer (Freund und Text dichter: 46 Schubert songs and 2 operas are based on his poems) before the writer committed suicide by jumping from the window of his office in Vienna in 1836 in his 49th year.

Max, and Johann Mayrhofer and Franz Schubert on trains, having had some choice in the matter – unlike trains of no return: Kadish Ofra Hazi, Kadish.

Was the word the beginning?

 Posted by at 10:17 am  Atelier, Old Men Travelling  Comments Off
Mar 242012

Lacan linked the "father" with the symbolic, with language. Here, the "father" might not be the father but some (any) mediating agent that is able to change the energetic lock of mother and child, enabling the further development of the symbolic function. So we can see the necessity of triangulation to shift the focus, to open up, and provide impetus to new themes and projects. Not that mother/child quite describes us, we are more like a pair of orphans long lost waifs in the wilderness. Lost in the wilderness requires us to find three landmarks – a triangulation to ascertain our position so that we might discover the onward stream.

    Keeping to the idea of three, having named Lacan as one of the three, two more events during the course of Wednesday of this week might serve to fill in the remaining two spaces. The second space could be filled by meeting a new pal during the courtse of cycling out through the maze of lanes outside of town. I was the guide, he the stranger. But he occupied a particular position as a researcher in robotics at a nearby university; an American: factors which offered another view, a perspective. Then later the  same day three of us met up to go to the movies. The film on this occasion was Patience (after Sebald), directed by Grant Gee with Sebald the absent hero and a cast of countless literary critics and others to guide us into new insights into the work of Sebald: in particular his book, The Rings of Saturn. It was beautiful slow moving meditation on that work which itself was a slow moving walk in which he followed chance encounters and psychoanalytic style free associations to build up chains of meaning to pursue his themes of European history and loss. Walking through East Anglia the associations erupted or percolated and created a moving if not terrifying opening to the glories and violence of patriarchy.

    And robotics, where does that come from? What are we, the patriarchy, trying to do, where are we going? But always bearing in mind the fact that we have probably never known where we are going. But nonetheless, we continue to set off hopefully and chock-full of delusions.

    We focus down until we can see a direction which interests us and then we can chase down the quarry, ignoring other siren calls.

    Lacan and Sebald, in their different ways, might challenge us to see bigger, different pictures, give us a foothold upon which we can begin to climb out of the deep betrayals of the patriarchy, the deep trenches of tradition and rules whilst goaded by the sharp sticks of editors, willing participants in the search for new songs.

    And another thought: I guess there were always two necessary wings of the Church. One formal, dressed up in glorious robes, rituals and tradition; the other, the mystics striding off into the wilderness to do what mystics must do and bring back the bacon of inner glory and news of the Other. God or viper.